OTTAWA -- Ottawa Bylaw officers will start issuing tickets to people gathering in large groups during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The City of Ottawa has responded to more than 260 calls over the last two days about people in public parks, gatherings on public and private property and non-essential businesses staying open.

“We’re into the charging phase now. Our officers have discretion at this point to issue a charge where they feel it’s warranted,” said Roger Chapman, Director of Ottawa’s Bylaw and Regulatory Services.

“Large gatherings, groups that we’ve had contact with in previous days, charges will be laid going forward.”

Chapman says dozens of verbal warnings have been issued to people disobeying the rules under Ontario’s Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act.

On Wednesday, Bylaw officers received 130 calls from the public. There were complaints about farms allowing horseback riding lessons, hair salons still operating, beach volleyball at Britannia Beach, soccer games at Millennium Park and neighbours gathering in a private backyard.

Ottawa Bylaw has a dedicated team of officers responding to calls and proactively patrolling city parks.

“If you see residents playing on a soccer field or on a play structure in a park, regardless of whether this is on city property or private property, you can report this to 311,” said Chapmain on Thursday afternoon.

Ottawa Bylaw officers have the authority under Ontario’s Emergency Management and Civil Protect Act to issue a fine.

Bylaw Services has said officers will be enforcing the following:

  • Gatherings of five or more people in a public or private residence
  • People congregating in parks/using park facilities or equipment
  • Restaurants that continue to offer dine-in services
  • Non-essential businesses remaining open

The City of Ottawa has closed all park amenities and equipment due to the COVID-19 pandemic, including sports fields, skateboard parks and off-leash enclosures.

Play and park equipment in the parks are also closed to the public to help limit the spread of novel coronavirus. 

Chapman told reporters on Thursday afternoon that officers were initially focusing on educating residents about the rules during the COVID-19.

“Day three into this, if we get continued non-compliance we’ll start resorting to issuing fines under the act,” said Chapman, adding issuing a ticket is at the discretion of the officer.